Karen Yarbrough, Cook County Clerk's Office fight patronage hiring allegations

CHICAGO (WLS) -- 50 years after the first lawsuit was filed to fight patronage hiring in Chicago, new allegations arise.

This time the claim are against Karen Yarbrough and the Cook County Clerk's Office.

Michael Shakman is the man whose name has become synonymous with fighting patronage hiring and has resulted in numerous Shakman decrees. He is the one who is asking for a federal monitor to investigate Yarbrough's office.

Now, Yarbrough is firing back and even floating the idea of counter suing in response to allegations that she was making patronage hires in violation of longstanding Shakman decrees prohibiting that.

"It's outrageous and preposterous," Yarbrough said. "Our books are open...Nothing to hide here."

The Cook County Clerk's office is just the latest one to come under scrutiny of a watchdog whose legal team said it was presented with credible evidence of violations that had to be investigated.

"Well, often the things we're able to uncover are just the tip of the iceberg," said Shkman Attorney Brian Hays.

Hays said they were presented with more potential violations than just improper hiring.

"The campaign has been using the private personnel files of the clerk's office to obtain cell phone numbers in order send these campaign solicitations to employees," Hays said.

Yarbrough flatly denies a fundraiser flying was texted to the personal cell phones of any of her employees.

"I never have," Yarbrough said. "Let them prove it. Where's the evidence? They had no evidence today of any of that, and I don't do that. I know what the rules are."

Hays is asking for a federal monitor to be appointed to review how Yarbrough is running her office.

"If you're hiring somebody on the basis of the campaign work that they do for you or the money that they contribute to your campaign, they're not responsible. They're not accountable for doing a good job. They're only accountable for doing campaign work," Hays said.

"Let me run my office," Yarbrough said. "Absolutely. Maybe I should sue them."

Yarbrough went so far as to accuse Hays and Shakman of running a cottage industry to make millions from taxpayers by these investigations.

Hays pointed to court ordered investigations at the city, county, sheriff's department and other agencies that have helped take political influence out of hiring decisions.
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